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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
OPERA REVIEW

Principals B. Knezevic A. Veruni and K. Gino's Curtain Call (Conductor Mary Chun Watches)

'ELIXIR' A WELCOME TONIC IN SPRIGHTLY ANNUAL MMF OPERA

by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 19, 2019

In most of the Mendocino Music Festival’s 33 seasons a single evening is given over to a staged opera, with bare bones sets, lighting, costumes, minimal cast and short length. No Wagner or Verdi here, no multiple acts and complicated production demands. Light and frothy are the usual, and so it was July 19 when the Festival mounted Donizetti’s charming “Elixir of Love” in the massive tent on the bluffs overlooking Mendocino Bay.

The two-act work runs a little over two hours and stage director Ann Woodhead moved the action from rural Italy of the 1830s to rural Italy a hundred years later. On the wide stage were a rustic table, a few chairs, milk cans and the Festival Chamber Chorale of 15 quite elderly singers, in simple costumes by Janice Culliford. Mary Chun conducted the Festival Orchestra, hidden as always in MMF operas behind a black back stage scrim, but never missed due to the overloud amplification that favored brass and sporadically covered the ensemble’s singing on stage.

Elixir’s plot revolves around familiar operatic themes of boy wants girl/mix ups/boy finally gets girl, with the interest coming in the complications. Here it is the insertion of a quack snake oil salesman (Dr. Dulcamara) that through his extravagance and the town’s gullibility his home-brewed “elixir” (cheap Tuscan Chianti) solves romantic and social issues and ultimately brings good financial fortune and merriment to all.

How was the singing? Very good, with a balanced production spotlighting soprano Aurelie Veruni (as Adina) and her awkward swain (tenor Kevin Gino as Nemorino) and the massive bass Bojan Knezevic’s sprightly Sgt. Belcore, the village’ resident soldier. Tending to steal the show were the repartee and antics of baritone Nick Volkert’s Dulcamara, capturing the buffo pranks and inciting the action. Ms. Veruni in the first act combined coquettish acting with clear Italian and when needed considerable top-note power, important in the large-volume tent space with zero reverberation. Mr. Gino’s was equally impressive if with a less powerful voice and perhaps over-the-top hand gestures and continual fumbling with his straw hat and shaking the love potion bottle.

Elixir’s most famous area, “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” began with Mr. Gino’s tranquil mezzo piano introduction framed by lovely bassoon playing by Carolyn Lockhart, but never quite soared over the audience of 700. Tenors love to sing it, with recent stellar versions from Pavarotti and Juan Diego Flores. The “Quanto Amore” duet between Adina and Dulcamara was a highlight as in the second act the plot strands were coming together.

Musically the score was one that Verdi must have valued (Traviata, Ballo) and Ms. Chun, a veteran of bay Area conducting and Music Director of Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater, drew a lively performance that never lagged. Even with stage right and stage center prompters, Ms. Chun must have had a video screen in front of her conductor’s score to manage the unfolding musical flow with the unseen stage action. Excellent playing during Ms. Veruni’s sensitively sung cabaletta “Prendi, per me sei Libero" came from clarinetist Eric Kritz and what was I think Meave Cox’ English horn. Did I also hear an electric piano or celeste?

The Festival’s much appreciated supertitles (the English libretto projected on the scrim) failed for much of the first act, but otherwise the production was pretty much flawless – no stage missteps, dropped lines, late orchestral entries or halting Italian words.

Elixir was another in a string of opera successes for the Festival, all the more impressive in that casting and rehearsal schedules are complex, and “it has to be right” for just one performance.